Home / Q2: Apr – Jun / 21 Great Wall, China / Goodness Gracious, Great Walls Of FIRE – Marathon Report!

Goodness Gracious, Great Walls Of FIRE – Marathon Report!

Yep, that’s the headline! I went there. Ha, too funny.. I reckon everyone should start a blog so they can come up with corny headlines. My lecturers at Ad School would be bloody horrified at the crap I come up with! Hehe..

I’m sorry you haven’t heard much out of me lately. I’ve got about 3 blog posts half done, but I keep having to move on a bit to stay somewhere near up to date. I thought I’d catch up on heaps in China, but not only did I struggle with internet censorship there, but I barely slept, ran one of the hardest races of my career and basically had the time of my life!

So.. a bit of background. I was going back to the Great Wall of China. Last time I was there was in 2001, a trip I took with my brother Chris “Smokey” Miller, my sister Rebecca and friend Kerry. I remember all of us being on top of the Wall, blown away by it’s magnificence, then Bek made a shocking suggestion.. “Hey. Let’s try calling Dad!” That couldn’t possibly work out here in rural China… Sydney’s the other side of the world.  Sure, if you dug a deep enough hole you might get there, but to just dial it in… And yet, when we called, it was as clear as day. “Hey Pa, you’ll never guess we are right now…”

I’d already been travelling for a couple of years before that, but that was one of those “world so small” moments. Standing on a Wall that had its beginnings 2000 years before, when the Mongol Warlords were madmen who raided the civilised Empire of Qin, was pretty extraordinary. The thing that gets you is how high it is. Not so much the Wall itself, but the natural wall of the mountain ridges that it snakes across. Many parts of the wall have been restored and if they look anything like they did back in the day, then you can’t help but be in awe. How they built something that was so magnificent, but also spans thousands of kilometres is absolutely beyond me. To believe that it would hold out the hordes was pretty ridiculous too, not unlike the walls we build today… The statement was probably much stronger than the function.

Back then, I never thought I’d be back to try running across it. People have committed to running the entire length in the past. What an amazing adventure that would be?! It’s ridiculously tough just to walk up different sections, let alone run for days, weeks or months.

So when I arrived after around 52 hours of travel, I was too tired to be excited about being there. I’d left Prague on Monday evening, stayed a half night in London, jetted to Dubai and hung out with the Sultan for 14 hours, then flew to Beijing. Our airport transfer didn’t want to rush either, so I got to bed at 2am, then had to be up at 5am, so we could all get a bus out to the Great Wall, around 2.5 hours away. Of course, I was 10 minutes late coming downstairs, only to find our friendly tour guide, Lisa Woo, absolutely losing her mind at my betrayal of her schedule.. Nice way to start..

By now it was Thursday and we were to head out for a “technical day” on the Wall. It was to show us about, allowing people to get a feel of how tenuous wall running really is. The course criss-crosses over the wall and parts of a fort down below. It’s actually a pretty confusing course, so it was well worth them going through it. There was also a half marathon, 10km and 5km race involved and they all follow different paths.

I didn’t realise just how many people were involved. There were some 2000 participants overall. So the technical day was the first time everyone was brought to the same place and the square was full of excited people. It dawned on me that my friends might be there too, so I kept my eyes peeled and tried not to look like too much of a loner.

Sharon Eyre is a friend of mine from many years ago. One of my first jobs out of school was at a local nightclub, the infamous Stylus of Ferntree Gully. I’ve got many amazing friends from that era and I’m still close to many of them. Shaz is special though. She and I toured Europe together for the first time when we were 21. She was an Eastern suburbs girl and we had a lot in common, especially a motivated and quite stubborn attitude to life! After 15 years of friendship, Sharon is more sister to me than friend.

To that end, when tragedy struck last year, Sharon called me and asked a small favour. Her step-dad, John Pelling, passed away quite suddenly. Susan, her Mum, was devastated by the blow as they’d only recently moved to Queensland to enjoy their retirement. Sharon asked if it was possible for me to dedicate one of my races to John, as he would have been very proud of my efforts and excited by my journey. John was an adventurer, serving in both the British and Australian army. He was funny, in that super dry, jibing English way and we got along great. No-one escaped his wit and BBQs at Sharon’s were always entertaining.

“Of course!” I said. “Any race you like, just pick one and I’ll run it for him.” Susan decided on the Great Wall marathon, which I wanted to do, but at the time was a little financially difficult to include. It cemented my resolve to go, so I booked it in and Sharon, Susan and her sister Lisa, started talking about coming to China to support.  It wasn’t long before Shaz was talking about running. Then her Mum and sister decided it was time to get active. All of a sudden, we had a RunLikeCrazy brigade heading to the Great Wall of China for a John inspired, Wall Smashing Bonanza! I could scarcely believe how excited everyone was to come join me!

I was chatting to a lovely Aussie girl named Mary, who’d decided that the Great Wall would be her first marathon (crazy!), when I saw Sharon sneaking up behind her. “Oh My God, Oh My God, Oh My God,” was pretty much how the conversation with Mary ended as Shaz and I were united in China! Her Mum and sister were there too, so the re-union was complete. I was so happy to see them. Remembering that I’d had bugger all sleep in transit for a few days, I was pretty tired and just pumped to be able to relax my guard and enjoy the company of people I knew. “You look tired,” was one of the first things the girls said to me. Ha! “Yeah, but I feel great!” I lied..

I was introduced to a whole bunch of people from their tour group. They were all excellent people and I’m sorry I don’t remember all their names. Tony, Kate, Jo, Matt and Avril, I do remember, though.…  They’d already formed quite the family, everyone looking about wide-eyed at the place they’d been dreaming of coming for a run. I was introduced to them and it was soon apparent that the girls had been talking me up a little too much. I felt a little awkward, trying to answer questions without coming across like some sort of over baked celebrity runner. I always feel like a bit of a fake in those situations. People are deciding if I live up to the hype or not. Many of them look at me and don’t see the “serious” runner that you’d expect. I don’t think I’m “serious” about too many things, so I can see why they’d be disappointed. But they were all really supportive of my quest and it was nice to have so many Aussie voices around me.

The girls had some gifts for me, including a couple of excellent drawings from Lisa’s boys, Cooper and Bailey. There was some support money from the boy’s Dad, Jan, too! Thanks Jan! I even got a couple of paintings from my little Godson, Atticus. They were very expressive pieces, using brown and yellow paint. I think the little guy must have been dreaming about blowing up a toilet while he painted, but the message from his Mum, Sophie, was: “Tell Tris they’re pictures of him running.” Haha. Yep… that’s pretty much how I look.

Among the gifts was a letter. It was from another of our back-in-the-day Stylus friends, Dee. Dee’s husband, Damon, contracted bowel cancer over a year before. With some quick work, they removed a large section of his intestine and he fought hard to get well. It seemed to be going well till last October, when the doctors told them he was back in the thick of the fight. I’ve been away for a while, so didn’t really understand how bad things had got, but when Sharon gave me the letter, she informed me that Damon had passed away only 2 nights before, while I was sitting on a plane somewhere over the Middle East and she was coming from Australia. I was in complete shock… I didn’t know what to say. It was not what I had expected, as I never really thought Damon would lose his battle.

We were to go up the Wall in our respective tour groups. The drive was 5 kms, so I had time to open her letter. It had been written about 10 days before and of course, typical Dee style, opened with messages of how proud she was of me on my adventure. She admired my efforts to just get up and go, noting that even one marathon is an achievement, let alone 20 in the year so far.  Then she spoke of Damon, saying that his battle was drawing to a conclusion. They’d been told to say good-bye to him 2 weeks before, but Damon was hanging on, true to his voracious attitude to life, to “stick it up them.” Dee said in her heart she knew she’d lose him soon, though.

And she wrote about her rock.. their little girl Jacqueline. 2½ years old, trying to be grown up to help Mum. That’s about where I had to drop my shades and look out the window as tears welled in my eyes. Knowing that Damon was now gone and reality would be so heavy at home, I couldn’t help but feel utter despair for my great friends. The thing is, if you knew Dee, you’d realise the depth of this tragedy. She’s one of those absolute givers. She’s the one that nurtures and protects, that gives understanding and patience to all around her, even when others would turn their backs. She is the LEAST deserving of this loss. And Damon, who’s passion for life, pragmatic nature and love for his family should have earned him so many more years of happiness and time with his wife and child. At 35, it was too early for him to leave.

The team caught up on the Wall, to walk the section we’d run a couple of days later. I saw Sharon and hugged her. She knew why and we both started to tear up. There wasn’t much to be said. We pulled ourselves together and then headed up onto the Wall for a tough walk and some amazing views.

Everyone was chattering away and equally shocked by how immense the Great Wall of China is when you’re on it. It stretched for 970 kms across the Beijing area alone, cresting mountains, splitting into multiple threads in sections creating a spectacular array that you can see for miles in every direction on a clear day. And it’s really, really high. In sections, the wall is quite deteriorated, not even offering steps, just well placed rocks. In others, they must have got tired of putting in so many stairs, because the blocks are twice and three times as big, and you begin to wonder how many giants were possibly roaming the ramparts in those ancient days.

It took an hour and a half to cross the 3kms and get back down to the fort. We chatted to Karen and Kiwi Kate, two girls over from Australia. They were both pretty driven girls, ready for a tussle with the Wall. Just as we were arriving back to the square where we’d originally gathered, there was a commotion behind us. A girl had danced along part of the Wall, stepping or jumping backwards for a photo, and had fallen into a large (well marked) gutter in the path. She’d torn her leg open and when Sharon caught me, she said she saw bone… Aarghhhh… Noooo… Booooo.  That’s an extraordinary amount of training and money, ready to go to waste if the injury was as bad as it looked.

We had something to eat in the square and cringed as we saw the girl who fell being treated. As I sat there, a couple wandered up the stairs and Sharon greeted them. I figured they were more people from her group, but it turned out she didn’t even know them.. They were looking for me! Ben and his girl Hanna had been put onto my story by a mate of his back home in Frankston, Melbourne. She was Finnish and they’d met over there (actually at 4am in McDonalds! Ha!) before coming to China and working in her family’s business in the South for a while. Ben’s a cool fella and it was really great to have people keeping an eye out for me at these events.

We were to split again after the tour. My group was staying near the Wall, while Sharon’s tour group would head back to Beijing to take in as many of the sites as possible. I headed back and started to get to know some of the people in my bus. There was Anthony, the fast talking comedian from Ireland. Malaika and Joe, two friends from the States. Cindy, a Canadian, who was full of fun and ready to smash the Wall as just another hurdle in life.  Big Dan! The guy is 6’8, so he basically towers over everyone – and he’s a surgeon ladies! Emma and Alyssa, a couple more Kiwi girls, over for adventure. Pete and his daughter, Kat, joining forces to come over and conquer the Wall. Roberto, from Argentina, with his girlfriend Carla, who was pumped to know I was heading over his way within a month. Arne and Gaech, from Norway. Arthur, the ex-South African from Brisbane, who’d done 10 Comrades! Roger, from Belgium, who wanted me to find a race in his neighbourhood. The Finnish guys and the lovely Kiwi trio of ladies.  The Mexicans! I loved the happy Mexicans. The Latvians – it was old mate Latvian’s birthday on race day! I’ve forgotten the names of some, so I hope they will send me messages to remind me.

The next day, some of us went to a village on the other side of the Wall. It was a $20 tour, which was to include lunch. I figured I’d do something vaguely touristy in China. I’d done all the Beijing stuff the first time around, so I thought I should try to stay out in the regional area near the wall and have a different experience. Boy, was it different?! I thought the tour would suck, quite frankly. And on paper, it did. We were put on these funny old 3 wheel tractors with trays on the back and driven a few kilometres up to the village. The locals were few, but they were very interested in us. We seemed to be a spectacle. Plus we were easy targets for crappy tourist gifts, the type of stuff that they buy in bulk from some factory in the next Provence, getting a decades worth at a time to keep the cost down.

So it does sound crap, right? But it was actually a really interesting experience! We walked right into a few of the local’s houses. I thought we were going to get in some sort of trouble, but it must happen often enough to be just part of regular life. We also went to a small school, where the kids were playing basketball and running around in circles. It was really quite cool to see them at play, unafraid of us, safe in their village and just doing the same things I did in my school playground many years back. Some of the boys were even doing pretty impressive karate or judo moves on each other, much like you’d see in the tacky Chinese martial arts films.

We also ate the local headman’s house. Well, he WAS the headman, back when the Communists operated each village like a functional cell, providing food for themselves and the People’s Army. It was interesting, because he and many other old men in the village, still wore the basic blue garments of the workers from 1950. And many older women donned the basic green tunics, that only females wore. It was interesting to see that it hadn’t changed much, because it simply didn’t need to. Communist ideals, as flawed as they are, essentially developed to help working communities like this find equality, so the functionality of their simple lifestyles/garments still made sense to these people.

The next day, race day, was an unreasonably early start. We were up at 5am and on the buses by around 6am. The race didn’t start till 8am and we were staying about 5 minutes drive away, so it was a bit frustrating to have to do the tour thing and go with everyone at the designated time. It meant we were waiting in the square for about an hour and a half, which could have been much better used for sleeping.. Though I can’t really complain, as Sharon, Susan and Lisa, all had to get up at about 3am to get there from Beijing!

But the atmosphere at the start was good. People were pretty revved up and I was happy to have a whole team of runners around me. Susan was smiling, which made me happy. She was doing the 5km run across the wall with Lisa. We all had pictures of John on our backs, a hysterical snap of him with a reggae wig on. It felt good to be helping Susan deal with his loss. It felt great to honour a really good man. “This one’s for you John”, said the singlets..

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The sun was breaking over the edges of the mountain range around us. You could feel its heat immediately. It was going to be hot and uncomfortable, no doubt about it. There was a little bit of confusion as to who was starting in what wave, but it seemed all the half marathoners and marathoners would get going in 2 waves, based on your previous best times. To be honest, it was a jumble of people in the first group, but I entered the back of that bunch after giving Shaz a big hug and wishing her luck in her half. It was a huge effort to decide to do a half marathon at all, let alone to include this bloody big wall in the middle!

As we kicked off with a cheer, I tried to find a good speed that I could maintain even through the first 5kms up the hill to the start of the wall. People of all abilities were around me, with most runners taking it slow, entering into a completely unknown type of race. I was immediately passing a lot of runners, figuring I’d slow down myself when I got to the winding uphill road. But I didn’t slow down up the hill and continued to pass huge numbers of runners that had started ahead of me. By the time I was up to the entrance of the Great Wall, I felt that I’d gotten right to the front of the first wave, possibly even in the top 50.

I bounded up the first group of stairs, then across a piece of the Wall, down a bit, along the ramparts, up some more stairs and then, well, I was able to let the awe of it all wash over me… I was running on The Great Wall of China!!! You could see me from space! Haha..

Runners were seesawing on the Wall. Some would fly down the stairs, then walk up the next group, only to rush downwards again at the next opportunity. I was the opposite, as I’ve never felt too comfortable going down hill or downstairs, so I just took it slowly, stepping deliberately. I even took note of another runner’s technique and began to tack back and forth across the stairs, elongating the possible foot space and allowing me to confidently step faster.

As I got over the first sections, finally onto the downhill run, I quickly came upon some familiar faces.. It was Susan and Lisa, most of the way through their 5km challenge! They were cruising along very well, loving the experience. The faster runners were tearing down the mountain by then, so Susan and Lisa were about to be swept away by a tide of marathon runners.

We got down to the fort again. I took a few places and noted the guys who had jetted away from me down the hill. I’m getting better at seeing the guys who have natural ability, the ones that are running strategically and the dudes who are just going to burn out in about 10kms. I knew when I was on the flat, that I would begin to find my way up the order, just by wearing some of these guys down.

As I got going on the flat, I became aware of two things. It was hot already… Really bloody hot. Perhaps 23˚C at 9am. Things would only get worse from here.. Secondly, my quads were on fire! They’ve never been used for that kind of climbing. In fact, I can’t imagine anyone has found a good place to train for those stairs!? I maintained a pretty good speed, keeping the pace around 4.45 per km. I was chewing through more of the competitors, seeing them struggle to find form after coming off the hill.

We were still mixed in with the half marathoners, but it wasn’t too long before I couldn’t see them anymore. They must have turned at some stage, but I missed it. Essentially the marathoners just head out for a further loop, then join the same track as the half again, but have the added task of heading back over the Wall the opposite way to the first stage.

We went through a few villages and many of the locals paused to watch us with bemusement. We seemed to be quite the spectacle for the children too, as they ran along next to each runner, yelling “Hullo”, or “Jaiyo!” (meaning “go”). It was nice to see them excited by a race that was essentially all tourists. When I did run next to a Chinese guy for a while, the crowd went wild, giving him as much support as they could, which I thought was pretty great.

As we progressed past halfway and even to the 21km mark, I thought I was ok. I was pretty baked, but still going. As long as there were no big surprises, I should be able to get through without falling apart…. So, of course, at 25km, when a random turn in the road became a long, slow, leg shattering climb of about 3-4 kilometres, I knew I was sunk. I grappled with it for a while, but eventually succumbed to the heat and began to walk. A guy was chasing me up the hill, making very good time. His name was Dean and we both encouraged each other forward. As he drew ahead of me though, I yelled out, “Hey! I’ve been looking for you… Number 52! You’ve got my number!” Ha! Dean laughed.

“You can have my whole bloody singlet when we get to the end!” he yelled over his shoulder.  Great guy!

Over the hill I went, through some old villages. Children were playing next to the street, watching the early runners come through with wide eyed interest. A very old man sat under a worn painted advertisement, still wearing his blue communist tunic. I love getting those pics as I hurry past. I should just stop for them more often, but I actually find it difficult to get my rhythm back if I stop. I tried to take in as many of the sights and feelings of this tiny hilltop town, before plunging back down into the valley. I’d never be back there, there’s no doubt. It’s like when you drive through the French countryside, thinking “Gee this is a quaint little town, I should stop back later and see what they’re about…” You never do. You never will. But somewhere in the back of your mind, you’ll retain  that glimpse of a piece of local culture that has developed there over centuries.

As I descended down, the course turned back and touched the previous part of the route, just briefly, before turning off again. There weren’t many runners in front or behind me, but here I came upon a steady flow, just about to tackle the huge hill that had just pounded my legs into submission. I saw some familiar faces and wanted to say something to help them prepare… but what good would it be really… They would have to just face up and tackle it themselves.

Another hill came up, stopping a few more runners ahead of me in their tracks. “Unbelievable!” I was thinking, as I tried to keep turning my legs over. Surely there’d be some respite before we headed back to the Wall. But again I was wrong, as I passed through another little village, then entered a plantation of some sort, no longer running on a road, but on a dirt track. There were barely any markers and certainly no easy footing. I tried to stay focussed, making sure my feet hit sturdy ground, but a few times my feet turned dramatically on the soft ground and I was sure I should fall on my face.

Eventually the track found another village and a road. I few turns along and the half marathon course merged with the marathon course again, so I was running past quite a few competitors again. I even saw Avril out there, pushing through her personal battle, nearly 80% through her run.

I kept moving, finding my way back toward the fort and the last leg of my run. As I entered the square again, they called out my name and told the crowd what I was doing. Lisa and Susan were there, flying the Boxing Kangaroo flag, shouting there heads off. I appreciated it, but could barely react as I walked a few metres, took a few swigs of water and got ready to take on the Wall and the final 8 kms. With a little fist pump, I climbed the stairs to get back on the Great Wall of China one more time.

I ran along the ramparts, over the bridge and started to climb the opposite way back up the goat track that takes you to the Wall itself. Not more than 30 steps up and I came to a sad, painful halt. I bent over double and coughed. I wheezed a few times, looked down to the crowd in the square and looked back up the hill… “Bugger me!” I sighed, knowing that this was going to be more challenging than I’d steeled myself for. “How the hell am I going to….?” I trailed off, knowing that there was no answer, there was just the doing ahead of me.

I began to climb again, pushing past some tourists, trying to keep my footfalls solid and drive through my quads. I charged up a few more sections and hit another intersection with my eyes rolling in my head. I’d passed another couple of runners, but I also knew there were a few coming up behind me. “Just keep moving champ…one step at a time.”

I saw the Wall looming as I steadily climbed the track. As I got to the final steps taking me onto it, I felt my hamstrings tighten and my face contorted with pain! “Ahhhhhhhh, F@#K!!!” (Sorry Mum.. ;) I tried to stretch, but couldn’t find a place to hang on.. I looked up and a few of the volunteers looked at me quizzically, seeming to consider whether I was worth helping… I finally found a rock to hold and controlled myself enough to stretch my leg out. It relaxed and I downed the rest of my electrolyte drink, hoping a little more salt would help. I finally mounted the Wall.

It was as though I’d told myself that getting on the Wall was the hard part, everything else would be easy. But of course, as I ran along, the different sections of the Wall loomed and I just tried to get some momentum to climb each set of stairs. Once over the top of a section, I had to contend with zig-zagging down another set of stairs and onto the next climb. I was tired and my focus was shot, so running down each series of stairs was becoming more dangerous. This was not going well…

I hit another section and the guy ahead of me, having climbed half way up, had taken a seat. I bounded up and plonked down next to him, sweating, wheezing, but laughing at the insanity of it all. He looked out at the valleys below, at the sections of Wall that snaked away into oblivion. “Beautiful day, eh mate?!” I mused, thinking it might be a good time to make light of the situation.

“It’ll be a better day when this damn run is done,” Paul responded, getting up and turning to face the rest of his challenge.

I sat for a moment longer. This was it… this was the last time I’d be here and really live this race. I looked at the tired runners following along the Wall below. I gazed across the valley at the majesty of ancient China. I took a deep breath, got to my feet, turned and looked up… and started to climb again.

The next couple of sections saw me grabbing stairs with my hands. Pulling on ropes wherever I could find them as handrails. I pulled and pushed myself up each section, fighting my way to the top. At one point I gently pushed a 5 year blonde boy against the Wall, apologising as I pulled against the rope that he was holding onto for stability. His mother looked at me in horror, saying something in French. I looked at her with sunken eyes, the blood drained from my face, trying to apologise, but still pulling past her on the rope. I’m not proud, but I had to keep moving, or I was done.

I finally got to the very top. A young Chinese guy was waving the national flag and his two companions cheered as I got there. I wasn’t in much of a state to respond, almost frothing at the mouth. But I stopped for a moment, pulled out my camera and got one more video.

Then it was down, down, down again. A couple of sections later and I was off the Great Wall, with only the 5km of winding road to go. You would think that this was the easy part, but my legs were a mess and for about 1km, I had to stop every 200m just to stretch out the cramps that were gripping my hamstrings. I knew I was ok, that I would get to the end, but I was in a bit of an emotional state and I found it hard to stay focussed and in control of my body.

I thought about John, Susan’s husband. I was running for Susan and her family and for John’s memory. He’d be making jokes at me right now, probably completely inappropriate too. I laughed a little at the thought of him giving me a kick. I tried to keep going. I saw a drink station and came to an abrupt halt, grabbing water and drowning myself with its contents. I tried to go again, but my legs were jelly and I was feeling dizzy. “You’re ok mate,” I reassured myself. “You’ll be right, you just have to keep moving.”

I was running again but I was struggling mentally. I had started to think about Dee and Damon. It just made me so sad. I felt like such a fraud, running around the world, having, quite literally, the greatest year of my life.  All Damon wanted was a little more time with his lovely wife and his daughter. I wished that I could give him my time. I would happily give up this year, this time I have, if someone like Damon was to benefit. I don’t have a wife, a child… I don’t have the responsibility that he had.. I don’t really have anything anymore. I know it’s not related, but I just couldn’t reconcile in my mind why I’m allowed to live so fully and Damon couldn’t just have a little more time.

I began to weep. I was running, tears streaming down my face, wishing I could do something to help… Damon was being buried today and I was running in China. It just didn’t figure and I couldn’t get a handle on it.

Another runner was coming down the road behind me as I slowed to a walk. He’d be the 3rd guy to pass me in this section. I hated being so defeated this late in the run. I rubbed my eyes and tried to pull myself together.

“52 in 52 weeks!” the runner shouted, as he ran by me! “Come on my friend, come with me!” It was Roberto, from Argentina!

“I’m sorry mate, but I’ve got nothing!” I responded weakly. He gave me a wave and kept charging down the hill. I saw his number though and it gave me one more spark. He was wearing number 21! It was my 21st race and here he was leading me forward. I found some momentum again and kept moving.

It wasn’t long till I was off the hill. I turned back toward the fort, knowing that I only had 1 more km to go. “No more walking,” I said to myself. I kept running, finding just a little more juice in my tired old legs. “C’mon, C’mon, C’mon..” I urged myself on, in that strange autistic way that I have of repeating everything thrice when I’m stressed..

And there it was. The entry to the fort. I pulled out my camera and went through the entrance. I emerged into the busy square and there was Sharon, Susan and Lisa, shouting and cheering. I’d made it.. I couldn’t believe it. I was so broken as I crossed the line. They gave me my medal and I got a picture. I got over to Sharon, giving her a weak smile. I started to tell her what I was thinking on the hill and instead just began to blubber and weep again. She knew why and we hugged and cried. It was all a little public for me, as people were coming over to congratulate me. Of all the runs, this was the most difficult, but so emotionally charged too. I was deafened by my feelings, unable to process everything that had happened. I was done.. I had to sit.

It took a while to pull myself together. I think the beer helped. Everyone was finishing and Sharon had pulled an amazing time for her first half marathon, finishing with 3:25. Susan and Lisa had finished together and they were elated to have completed the run.

Everyone did well. I wish I could write about them all, but this post is too long. I hope when all my new friends read this, that they take the time to write their results in the comment boxes below.

In the end, I finished 19th, of 580 marathoners, with 4:26.23. It was a much better result than I’d anticipated. I couldn’t have performed better, having punished myself for weeks already and having had so little race specific training and very little rest.

The following days were full of site-seeing in Beijing, dinners with Sharon, Susan and Lisa, plus the Gala Dinner, put on by the race organisers in town. There was even a bit of Chinese nightclubbing with Dan, Anthony and Cindy, where Irish Anthony got himself in a little bother with a married woman! It was a truly spectacular few days and I am just so happy that China was included in my tour. Actually, having never really done the full tour package race, I was shocked at how much I enjoyed it. I highly recommend it to anyone.

I said my goodbyes to Sharon, Susan and Lisa on Monday night. Susan paid for my dinner and I felt so well mothered and brothered by them. I was tired as hell, but I really didn’t want to go. Thanks for being there with me girls, it really made my trip 100% worthwhile!!

Sorry this is so long. It’s an epic post for an epic adventure. It’s probably the last long one you’ll see for a while. They’re just too arduous and I need to start posting smaller write-ups more often. I’ll do my best to curb my enthusiasm..

Remember why I’m here… It’s for UNICEF people. I’ve had a couple of great donations in the last few days, but I’ve also got a long way to go to get to my target of $100,000! If you enjoyed this read, then please plug in $10! It all helps and it’s tax deductible!

And don’t forget that I’m still without significant sponsorship, so all help in spreading the word on Facebook is a big help too. Suggest it to your friends!

I’ve already been to Rwanda, which was extraordinary, but harrowing too. And to Hungary with Opray and Lauren! I’m going to just put up some videos for those two weeks, as I need to get up to speed. I’m currently on a plane to Madrid, to connect to my next massive adventure… South America Baby!! WOOOOOO!!

About TBone

10 comments

  1. Tristan…that’s a very powerful and emotional read, My Son.
    I’m immensely proud of what you are achieving both physically and psychologically.

  2. Ah Tris I didn’t think I had any more tears. Great writing once again, you really captured the vibe of the whole experience. Was great seeing you and getting to hangout without having to rush or quickly jott some words in an email. You mentioned something in one of your previous blogs about missing having a mate to just get the little things or know without having to speak. Well I hope I filled that void, if only for a short time. We are all so honoured to have shared this adventure with you.
    Keep running, keep writing and know that your audience gets bigger and bigger. You will continue to motivate and inspire so many people.
    xxxx

  3. T-Bone what a massive mission conquering yourself and the GWoC. And well done to Arthur from Brisbane who’d done the 10 Comrades. Heck you meet some mircaulous people on your journeys ….Once again, a mind-blowing blog that made me feel like I was right alongside ya. All gruelling 42.2km of it. It’s late at night and I’m reading this in bed in Notting Hill London and thinkin of you all – Sharon, Lisa, Susan, Tris and Dee – all astonishing human beings … big universal love to those two magnificent souls John and Damon who would have been feelin your support high above. Thanks for letting me help celebrate their lives, by reading this moving blog post. Keep shining your light brightly around the planet. Fly like the wind xxx

  4. You have captured every moment of the Great Wall Marathon so well Trist. Spending the week on this special journey with Susan, Sharon & Lisa was a highlight for me. When the girls told me about their crazy mate who was doing this incredible trip, i thought I have to meet this bloke. The energy you have is truly amazing and so many people are with you all the way. Keep up the good work. See you on New Years Eve.

    Run like crazy

    Matt

  5. T-man you are a champion. I did the Great Wall marathon in 2005 and it changed my life attitude forever! Well done .
    I also ran (walked ) Zermatt marathon (which I think you do next month), that one you’ll love. Keep going , you are an inspiration.

    Take care and safe travels.

    Carl

  6. Hi, great reading your report nice of you to put in it awesome dude,
    hopefully see you again in Athens! keep on running (spencer Davis track) Dean

  7. Fabbers Family

    Tris we cannot say how impressive this is.
    EBs says “tristan pistons”…he is into rhyming of sorts at the moment and seems on theme.
    I was gonna suprise you in Rio…but now you have canned it. I am very likely in Paris 24th Oct for a week so will work out how to catch up with you.
    be good to yourself
    Dan

  8. There’s no such thing as a blog post that’s too long. Especially when the post is so heartfelt, honest and captivating. Well done Tristan, on the race and your words. Keep on truckin’!

  9. Awesome read and awesome achievement. I am doing my first marathon on the Gold Coast at the weekend – your blog will be in my thoughts as I struggle through the distance. I too get very emotional (though for no real reason) when running distance. So if I cry at the finish line I’ll know I’m in good company.

    Can’t wait to read the next instalment.

  10. RThe op pic looks really cool. I think I want to recommend our clients follow your sit and consider doing marathons like this.

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